JetBlue is taking steps to restore its image in the wake of its scheduling implosion last week that left passengers stranded in airports for days and in some cases sitting in grounded planes for more than 10 hours at a time. A day after trotting out CEO David Neeleman to the New York Times (who said he was “humiliated and mortified” by the delays), the company plans to unveil today a customer “bill of rights” program and new operating procedures. A YouTube video from Neeleman is also front and center on JetBlue’s website – a good use of the medium to speak directly to customers.
For a company that has developed a loyal following despite its low-frills approach to flying, this is a critical juncture. It seems to be aware of the damage control it must do. Here’s Eric Brinker, JetBlue’s director of brand management and customer experience, quoted in the Poughkeepsie Journal discussing the new passenger bill of rights:
“We’ll be reaffirming ourselves as a leader in this industry. It’s something that’s going to hold JetBlue financially accountable to a much greater extent than airlines have today. It’s something that really forces us to do right by our customers.
The airline already has pledged full credits or refunds to passeners whose flights were cancelled. So far, so good. But the next few months – and the steps the company takes to fix its apparently deep-seated operational problems – will determine just how much equity JetBlue has built up with its customers.
More broadly, some observes are calling the JetBlue fiasco a tipping point for airline travel, as the blogosphere heats up with calls for legislation to protect travelers’ rights. Before the JetBlue troubles, a real estate broker named Kate Hanni had formed the Coalition for a Passengers Bill of Rights and is collecting signatures on a petition to spur Congress to enact new legislation for airline travelers. The JetBlue incident will no doubt feed those efforts.
Another great example of the power of social media.